If there is one thing I’ve learned in all my years as a gay man, it’s to always use a condom! But one of the assumptions built into the ‘condomize-or-else’ mantra is the notion that everyone can afford to engage in safe(r) sex in the first place. Well, I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth—okay, well, maybe a few more things...
One issue I’ve often discussed with friends is the popular (mis)conception that all gay men live in the lap of luxury. We now know, thanks to the Williams Institute, that LGBT people are just as likely to live in poverty as straight people. But knowing this information doesn’t necessarily stop people from buying into the hype, which may explain the assumption behind the ‘condomize-or-else’ campaign. 

As one care health provider talks about vis-à-vis the UHIP project in Detroit, Michigan:

[When] you lack resources, you lack maybe food on [the] table, maybe a place to live, you don’t have a job. It makes you more vulnerable and it makes you, your focusing on this, the, you’re dealing with disadvantages and it doesn’t necessarily allow you if you’re given the, the HIV prevention information that you need to just focus on that information so it creates a lot of hardships in people’s lives and this just becomes one more issue in your life.

This quote resonates with me a lot because it underscores how ‘going without’ can negatively impact your ability to promote and maintain a sexually healthy lifestyle. Consider the following scenario: as an undergraduate student at an elite university, I had access to our University Health Service, a free health clinic on campus. This meant I could see a physician about a cold, a headache, or a fever whenever I wanted. It also meant I could get STI checks every 2-3 months with relative ease.

But what if I weren’t a university student whose tuition paid for routine STI testing? What if I were 17 years old again – a newly ‘out’ gay boy with no car, no job, no health insurance, and no emotional support from my family? How do I afford the $74.00 HIV test from Planned Parenthood? I could go to the public health clinic, but it is nearly 10.8 miles away from my house. I could use public transportation, but it would take 1 hour and 18 minutes for me to get there – time I really don’t have when I’m in school from 8:00am-3:00pm, Monday through Friday. I could ask my parents to take me to the doctor, but do I really want to risk another confrontation with my mother about how I’ve failed her as a son?

It’s important to note that, as a 17-year-old boy, I wasn’t looking for reasons not to get tested. Rather, I was caught in web of factors that were largely out of my control. I couldn’t really help the fact that the HIV test cost $74.00 or that the public health clinic was so far away from me. All I could do was try to figure out how I could overcome the ridiculous obstacles put in front of me.

But, after a while, you begin to ask yourself: why should I have to pay the unforeseen costs of safe(r) sex – especially when it’s easier for me to choose the ‘or else?’ 

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"Dorian Gray, Jr." is a social justice advocate interested in putting the “sex” back in sexuality. He’s a queer man of color with urban roots and suburban ties. A lover of radical politics and feminist praxis, Dorian owes much of his life’s work to folks like James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Marcus Garvey, and Alan Berube. His ultimate goal in life is to be on Fox’s hit television show ‘So You Think You Can Dance.”


Shesha
9/19/2013 19:19:44

Mr. Gray, I read the entire article and what I focused on after reading it was this, "I was caught in web of factors that were largely out of my control. I couldn’t really help the fact that the HIV test cost $74.00 or that the public health clinic was so far away from me. All I could do was try to figure out how I could overcome the ridiculous obstacles put in front of me." The web of factors that you were caught up in was totally in your control! The overcoming of the ridiculous obstacles that were put in front of you were choices that you made. The answer was and is simple, God made you as a man, to find a wife (woman), marry her and care for her as God does for us! It is not you per say that is corruptible, but your thinking....the bible says, "For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee." You do what you do because you chose to, you are the man that you are because God made you as a man. The sinful nature is death, spiritual and eventually physical! God loves all of His creation but he created man out of His image, God hates SIN and your lifestyle being a queer man is a sinful nature of which God detests. Read it for yourself and may God be with you and I pray that He will give you a change of heart as He gives you a changed and renewed mind!

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